THE NBA playoffs are under way and there are two questions in the minds of most fans.
One, can the Miami Heat, LeBron James and company defend their title? And two, who will challenge the Heat in the East and in the Finals?
The Miami Heat topped the East with a 66-16 slate that included a magnificent run of 28 straight wins. Their chemistry is down pat with James playing sweet music with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen. The Heat are also playing with an intensity that is difficult to stop no matter what kind of defensive rules are enforced by opposing teams.
Chicago, the unit that snapped the Heat attempt to rewrite the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers record of 33 straight wins, ganged up on James to prevent him from scoring so easily. Such a ploy will be difficult to replicate in the playoffs where the adjustments are swifter and the atmosphere of the games is different, especially since the Heat are the defending NBA kings.
The Heat can hurt you in a variety of ways with James or Wade gliding along the wings ready to receive lob passes for monster slams or with half-court sets that has other weapons from afar or inside like Allen, Bosh and Chalmers.
The tenacious defense of their second NBA crown (the first came in 2006 when Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Wade were under the baton of Pat Riley) is expected because the Heat want to prove that last year’s triumph was not a flash in the pan.
They want to erect their own dynasty with a few more titles to push them into the same league as the teams of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Playoff teams in the East and whoever the opponent Miami may face in the finals will also have to match the intensity the Heat will switch on.
In the East, it seems that only New York, which finished second overall in the standings, and maybe the Chicago Bulls have the personnel and the crowd support that can stand up to the scorching hot Heat wave.
For most Filipino NBA fans, there’s always interest in how the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers fare. Having such a colorful rivalry through the years, the interest is a worldwide phenomenon.
Well, the Celtics are in the playoffs but have the rampaging New York Knicks as their playoff opponent. In fact, the first game of that series has already gone the Knicks way with an 85-78 triumph.
The interesting drama at season’s end was whether the Lakers would make the playoffs at all. The season-ending injury to Bryant added a sad twist to the drive. However, the rest of the Lakers closed ranks and managed to finish seventh after being on the brink of elimination.
They’re up against the San Antonio Spurs though that finished second and are enjoying a resurgence of late.
Over in the West, Oklahoma City looks poised for another shot at the title. However, if San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can continue to turn back time then maybe they have an outside chance of returning to the finals.
The rest of the West is not ready to take over the conference except perhaps if the Los Angeles Clippers play at such a high level in the postseason.
The Miami Heat look formidable in the playoffs. Just like our own unbearable heat in our part of the world, LeBron James’ team will be hard to douse cold water on.